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Recipe: Matcha Ice Cream

Recipe by Kenichi Eguchi Photographs by Parker Fitzgerald Produced by Tina Minami Dhingra

Matcha is powdered green tea and adding it to ice cream not only makes it a little bit healthier, it’s a lovely pastel green color too! Try out our recipe for Homemade Matcha Ice Cream. 

Legend has it that when the former emperor was ill, a Ginza tea seller presented matcha ice cream to the palace. Matcha is powdered green tea, made once a year from soft budding leaves. It’s used in tea ceremonies in Japan, where the aroma and bitterness are enjoyed in formal settings. But for ice cream, you don’t have to go over the top—a simple, reasonably priced brand will work wonders. Just make sure you smooth out the powder before combining with the other ingredients. The ideal temperature for steeping matcha is 176°F / 80°C. If the liquid is too hot, you may lose the aroma. If it’s too cold, you might end up with green powdery chunks.

If you like doing things the old-fashioned way, you can try making it without a machine. Is homemade ice cream easy? Sure, people have been making ice cream since before machines existed—churning milk on ice and rock salt—so it’s definitely possible. If you have an ice cream maker, feel free to use it, since it’s the air that counts. The more air you get in the ice cream, the softer it will get. If you don’t have a machine, don’t worry. You can still make delicious homemade ice cream with a little effort.

1 cup (8 ounces/250 milliliters) milk
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/150 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (16 ounces/500 milliliters) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons (.25 ounces/7.5 grams) matcha powder or more to taste

Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan to 98.6°F /37°C. In a small bowl, mix the matcha with about 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) of the warm milk.

Pour the cream into a bowl and set on an ice bath in a larger bowl filled halfway with ice and cold water.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Return the milk to 98.6°F /37°C and gradually pour it into the yolks, whisking constantly (keep the bowl steady by anchoring it with a wet towel). Scrape the warm yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat resistant spatula until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Run a fingertip across the coated spoon: if it leaves a trace, the mixture is thickened enough. Mix in the matcha mixture thoroughly.

Strain the green custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, then chill or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once chilled, pour the mixture into a container (preferably metal for faster freezing). Freeze until the edges have begun to set, about 45 minutes. Then stir with a whisk or spoon to break up the frozen parts and return to the freezer, repeating the procedure every 30 minutes until the mixture is completely set and evenly frozen.

The idea is to whisk in as much air as possible, otherwise you will get shards of ice crystals or end up with a block of green ice. Once it takes on a soft ice cream–like consistency, transfer to a covered container until ready to serve.

Note: Many recipes will suggest granulated sugar but cane sugar or brown sugar work well with matcha. If you can get hold of Wasanbon, a light cane sugarmade from Chinese sugarcane or brown sugarcane used for Japanese sweets, you’re in for the real deal (granulated sugar will give you a cleaner result).

Matcha doesn’t need to be expensive. Save the good stuff for drinking.

Makes 1 quart (946 milliliters) 
Serves 4–5 people

Photographed at Rocket Gallery, Tokyo. 

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